The Totally Objective Ranking Of Things To Eat At Your Desk

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FunDip is not included in the ratings because it’s not food. It is awesome, though.

1. Fresh Fruit. “Nature’s candy”, as natural food enthusiasts will tell you when you ask, and even if you don’t. Pros: Infinite variety, tastes good, pretty colours, actually fucking good for you. Cons: sticky juice hands, obnoxious crunching, equally obnoxious sense of superiority to those inhaling Cheetos around you.

Rating: 3/5 Hungry Rats

2. Vending Machine “Cookie”. This isn’t a real cookie. Real cookies don’t hang out in a metal box waiting for your willpower to drop at 3 pm. At best, it’s sugar glued together with vegetable oil and boiled hooves. At worst, it’s already home to a cockroach which you will discover only when it’s half a cockroach. Pros: Sugary, quick energy, can be dipped in coffee, comfort food if your idea of comfort is being kicked in the lower intestine twenty minutes from now. Cons: expensive, tastes like regret and cardboard.

Rating: 1/5 Hungry Rats

3. Trail Mix. Suitable even if the closest you’ve ever been to hiking is that time you got an allergic reaction watching Naked and Afraid. Sweet, salty, both…there’s a mix for everyone. Or you can just throw a bunch of chocolate chips and almonds in a bowl and go to town. Pros: Tasty as fuck, customizable, probably not deep fried. Cons:People with allergies will stab you in the neck; also, everyone’s got that friend who picks out the stuff they like and leaves everything else, which clearly violates the social contract.

Rating: 4/5 Hungry Rats

4. Chips. Like cocaine to us salt addicts. Pros: Available fucking everywhere*, cool regional varieties, enough salt to de-ice a road. Cons: Salt bloat, that asshole who “just wants one” and then takes a handful.

Rating: 4/5 Hungry Rats, minus 1 for having to go up a belt notch.

5. Coffee. As a starving student I learned the age-old truth: with enough cream and sugar, this can be a meal. These days I drink it black because I lost my taste for sweets. Plus I’m lactose intolerant and soy milk is a crime against nature.** Pros: Keeps you awake, cool mugs, your only friend on lonely nights when your face is lit by the neon glow of your laptop screen and you can pretend you’re in a noir movie. Cons: NONE DON’T YOU DARE SAY ANYTHING BAD ABOUT MY BELOVED I WILL FUCKING CUT YOU.

Rating: 11/5 Hungry Rats SHUT UP.

*Except the graduate pub of my old university, which banned unhealthy snacks but still served beer. I dunno, man, my eight pint while I drank away my thesis stress just didn’t go down right with celery sticks.

**Soy milk tastes like drinking smugness and dishwater.

Broken

Blood of Enemies

Mugs like this help, too.

You are broken.

That’s okay. So am I. So is, I assume, everyone else reading this, because if you’re of the age where you think you’ve got a story to tell, then you’ve probably got a few cracks. Whether you know it or not.

Sometimes they’re hairline fractures, hardly big enough to see, but definitely big enough to feel. Sometimes they’re fissures wide enough to let the darkness in until it seems like the darkness is all there ever was and ever will be.

That’s okay, too.

Because if you’re trying to tell a story–whether it’s with words or pictures or chords or steps–then all those broken pieces are where it starts.

We want to hide those pieces. If life teaches a lesson, it’s to keep that shit to yourself. No one wants to see that. No one else feels this way. Fuck you, you think that’s a problem, there are people starving to death, you entitled first world asshole.

But telling stories is sharing, and not in the kindergarten sharing-is-caring way. Sharing is ripping yourself open and examining what falls out of the cracks, even if it’s bloody. Especially if it’s bloody.

We’re afraid of what other people will think about it, but that shit is fuel and vehicle, N2O4/UDMH and rocket, guzzoline and War Rig all in one. And everyone’s got their own. We all come equipped to roll, but most of us never make it out of the station and into the desert.

People ask writers where their ideas come from. It’s there. The cracks and the stuff in between. The only question is: what will you do with it? Will you put all those broken parts on display? Will you drag up the stuff that’s too personal, too sharp, too real, and use it? Because if you do, you’ll tell a story that’s more you than anything else. The story only you could tell. The only one that’s worth telling.

So write about it. Write about shitty relationships and broken homes. Write about being ten years into a life you chose and not being able to sleep because what if you chose wrong? Write about struggling and falling down and not knowing if you want to get up again. Write about escaping, about fighting, about settling, about watching the clock roll over to midnight and realizing that another day is over and you didn’t do anything that you wanted with it. Write about the stuff you left behind and the stuff you carry with you into the desert.

You think no one want to hear that? Fuck you. The only story no one wants to read is “once upon a time everything was fine.”

And we don’t want that because we’re all just as broken as you.

So tell that story. And don’t worry about the judgement. Underneath we’re all held together with duct tape and rusty staples.

10 Things To Make Your Workspace Less Of A Soul-Sucking Shithole So You’ll Actually Get Some Work Done

1. A scribble pad. For all those ideas that need a place to live.

2. Something you enjoy writing with. I got my first fountain pen last year, and I heart it so hard. Here she is.

Lamy 2000

Matte black and very sharp, so I’m, like, 90% sure this is a spy pen.

Aside from being beautiful and a genuine pleasure to hold, I’ve found that it actually helped my hand pain. Less pressure to write = less pain for me. And for someone who always does their best thinking in a for-real notebook, that’s a big deal.

3. Something nice to look at. A window. Some good pictures. I have a framed blueprint of the arc reactor from Iron Man. See?

Arc Reactor

A surprising number of people have thought this was a blueprint of a real thing.

Oh, and some pictures of people or something. I don’t know who those people are. I’m definitely not married to one of them.

4. Toys.

Winchesters vs nightmare moon.jpg

There are weirder episodes of Supernatural than this.

Dean: What the hell, Sammy?

Sam: I don’t know!

Nightmare Moon: EVERYPONY SHALL BOW TO ME.

Dean: Screw this, let’s just kill it.

5. Motivational Poster.

Whatever Bitch.jpg

Cross stitch by Kat Nicholson.

Or cross stitch. As the case may be.

6. Headphones. Very necessary equipment. Whether I’m listening to heavy metal, Taylor Swift, or stereoscopic thunderstorms, I don’t want to be able to hear my neighbour’s reciprocating saw while I’m working. Or his kids. They’re both loud.

7. Stress Relievers.

Stress Balls.jpg

These are foam and silicone, FYI. Real brass knuckles are still stress-relieving, but also come with jail time.

A d20 because I’m a nerd. Brass knuckles because I’m a nerd who can kick your ass.

8. Breath Freshener. No one likes your six-cups-of-coffee-and-two-cigarettes breath, man. No one. Not even the cat, and he licks his own butthole.

9. Places for all your shit. Corral that crap lest your desk disappear beneath a thousand thousand pen caps and paper clips.

10. You.

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S’up.

If you avoid it, it’s not a workspace; it’s just a place you store crap you don’t use. And that’s what the pit in the basement is for.

Set It All On Fire, Child: Editing

Set It All On Fire

I found this on my phone, and I have no idea why I saved it, but I’m glad I did.

I’m picking my way through my manuscript right now, piece by excruciating piece. And, as that last sentence might tell you, it’s not fun. Few things in writing are less fun than looking through your own stuff for every fucking thing that’s wrong with it. Unless, you know, you don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. In that case, one, yes there is, and two, you’re in for a rude awakening when you ask for feedback, cupcake.

Anyway.

Sometimes the only way to get through this crap is to set goals. Make a chart. Figure out how much you need to get done in order to reach the end, and then divide that by the number of working days. I can only edit for a max of about two hours in one go before my brain melts out of my ears, so 110,000 words at two hours a day is…

A long time.

Well, not that long.

Other things probably take longer.

Like building a house. Or learning a second language. Conquering Australia.*

But, still, in writer terms, this is taking a while.

And it should. Finishing it too fast would mean I rushed through it, which means there’s still problems I didn’t find.

This way, a piece at a time, I can get…well, not all of them. But most of them. Plot holes are like ants, or the mystery pens: I don’t know where they come from, but if I see one, guaranteed there are a thousand more of the fuckers hiding nearby.

My job, on this second edit, is to expose their places, mark the locations, and come back later with fire and poison. Editing as I go leaves me with a tangled mess, as the plot holes scurry back into their nests because I’m too busy remembering what I changed here to find what I should change there. I need to take my time and get this right, or at least as right as I can.

So, when you’re tearing through your story, making it up for editing, remember: go only as fast as you can and still do a good fucking job. Otherwise it’s more work later, and one more chance that you’ll either fuck it up or get frustrated and give up.

Edit first; fire later. Say it to yourself.

I’m almost to the fire. So close.

But not yet. First…first I’ve got a lot more of these days to get through.

* I kid, Australia. We’re cool.

Insomnia: A Timeline

Fender Laser Eyes

Look at this asshole.

10:00: Great time to go to bed if you get up at 6:00 am. Great time for your night owl friends to say “You’re going to bed already? My kids go to bed now.” Also: this is the time my asshole cat starts snorting coke from the stash she almost certainly keep somewhere in the house.

10:30: The time I mean to turn off my light after reading for half an hour.

11:42: The time you check the clock again.

11:45: I have to be up at what time?

11:47: The time I actually turn off my light.

11:52: The time I turn the light back on to finish that chapter.*

12:18: The time I turn off the light for real this time.

12:23: The time I start mentally revising my latest story.

12:42: You know what would make this story awesome? Robots.

12:43: No, dinosaurs.

12:44: No, robot dinosaurs.

12:45: Did I just pitch Transformers 3 to myself?

12:46: Get back on track. That story’s not going to fix itself.

1:07: I wish this story would fix itself.

1:14: Balls, I need to get some sleep. Okay. Enough story bullshit. I can think about that tomorrow. Right now, it’s sleep time.

1:22: I SAID SLEEP TIME, ASSHOLE CAT.

1:38: *Actually asleep*

3:49: HOLY BLAZING SHIT CANNONS, THAT DREAM FIXES THE STORY PERFECTLY. I MUST WRITE THIS BRILLIANT IDEA DOWN BEFORE SLEEP RETURNS IT TO WHATEVER WONDERLAND IT CAME FROM. *taps excitedly on phone*

4:01: *asleep again*

4:45: Asshole Cat begins the Face-Biting Tapdance of her people, and I wake up with fang prints on my nose.

5:13: I regret not getting a dog.

5:15: I get up to pee. Asshole Cat accompanies me, because peeing is a team sport.

5:19: Asshole Cat is adorable, and I take back what I said about getting a dog.

5:20: Why is there a note about wombat combat pilots on my phone?

5:21: WOMBAT COMBAT, ahahahah, you kill me, sleeping brain.

5:22: *asleep again*

6:00: whuhfuckintimeisit?

6:01: Shit.

6:02: God, I should check those notes from last night….Yep, just as I thought. Wombat combat, something about the Illuminati and….hey. This one’s not bad. It might even work. All I have to do is…

6:03: Crank up the writing engines and put on the motherfucking coffee, because it’s a new day and I’ve got writing to do!

*If you share a bed, this is followed by 11:53: The time your bed mate asks what the hell is wrong with you.

8 Reasons I Stopped Reading Your Damn Book

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#9: No T-Rex Skulls. (Image by Steph Snow)

1. The Snake Mittens. A book I tried reading recently–which seemed perfect for me–got the axe because the main character failed to notice three important things in the first ten pages, all because he was too busy wondering how he looked in his new hat. You don’t deserve to survive to the end of the story. You are dumber than snake mittens. Next.

2. The Failure To Launch. Nothing’s happening. And I don’t mean the artistic nothing, where you can get alongside it because it’s exploring character*. I mean nothing nothing. You might have some good characters or an interesting setting or a cool idea, but, goddamn, move it along a little. I’m too busy to hang around while an author masturbates all over a page and calls it art.

3. The Frankly Scarlett**. When you just don’t give two sacks of dead rats about these people or anything that’s happening to them. Died? Meh. Survived? Double meh. Crowned ruler of the land? Welcome to the Kingdom of Meh, population meh.

4. The Long Con. When the first two 900-page books of a series are just set-up, and nothing really gets interesting until book three. At the earliest. Call me when the author learns about editing.

5. The Sexist Bullshit. And don’t even fucking try to get around me with ‘historically accurate’ sexism in fantasy settings. You’ve got magic and elves, but it’s too unrealistic for you to let anyone with a vagina be a real person? Go fuck yourself.

6. The Racist Bullshit. Likewise, any fantasy/sci-fi mention of an ‘evil race’ automatically earns you a place in the corner. It’s 20-fucking-16. If you can’t write racism with any nuance or grace, then don’t do it. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, proceed directly to go fuck yourself.

7. The Any-Other-Discriminatory Bullshit. Get it together, and also go fuck yourself.

8. The Something Better. A better book came along, and I just…kind of…forgot to finish that one. Sad, but it means there was no question I needed answered badly enough to finish the story.

Who out there always finishes their books? Who’s okay with quitting if it’s not doing it for them? Organize yourselves into two teams and square off…..NOW.

*Though, in that case, it had better be a damn interesting character.

**Fantastic drag name, btw.

13 Treasures I Found When I Procrastinated Cleaned My Desk Instead Of Writing

1. A Thousand Notebooks. I have a dedicated drawer just for blank notebooks, where I assume they spend all night fucking because there’s no way I bought this many.

2. Mysterious Notes. “P needs to kill the G.N.” “What if [scribble] was a cat-[scribble]?” “More blood.” And a long list of names, most of which are crossed out. I can only assume this is proof that I’m a mind-controlled government assassin.

3. This Thing.

12 Ladies

Uh….

 

4. Four Pairs of Old Glasses. And two pairs of new ones. And that lens that popped out of my old prescription sunglasses. Not found: the sunglasses themselves. Can only assume they’ve become more pens.

5. A Flash Drive Labelled ‘The Tesseract’. This is either the emergency OS reload key I made back when my laptop betrayed me, or Marvel’s going to send a cease-and-desist to my desk drawer.

6. The Last Easter Egg. From 2015. I hope. It tasted like pencil shavings.Thank You For The Coffee

7. $75 in Movie Theatre Gift Cards. Score!

8. 7 Knives. Including four throwing knives, but not including box cutters.

9. These Fucking Pencils.Fucking Pencils

10. Legions of Pens. I never bought these. No one would buy these. Why are they here? Why are you here, pointy interlopers?

11. Two Rupees. Like from India, not Legend of Zelda.

12. PONY ARMY.

Pony Army

You came into the wrong NEIGHbourhood, motherfucker.

13. The Original Outline For the Current Novel. HAHAHAHAHAHA no.

Finding The Way: 5 Questions To Make Your Story Suck Less

Free Candy

Looks legit. Image by Stephanie Snow

1. Do I Need This? Not just the rallying cry of laziness, this is a key question for editing. Do you need that scene? How about that character? Could you combine three lackluster cardboard dudes into one far more complex and interesting dude? In the words of Thoreau: simplify, you sons of bitches.*

2. Who’s That Guy? If you can’t summarize someone’s character and plot relevance in one sentence, then you don’t know them as well as you thought. Consider their role in the light of question one, and reevaluate.

3. Where The Hell Are We? If your setting unintentionally** reads like a grey void populated with talking heads, backfill and define. It’s a city? Great. What city? What’s the city’s feel? Anyone who’s travelled can tell you that different cities have different characters. What are its defining characteristics? Where’s the best place to get Korean BBQ at 4 am on a Tuesday? What neighborhoods have a different dominant language? What alleys do you avoid walking down? If your characters live there, they know it, so you should, too.

4. What Happened To That Guy’s Head? When did he die? Where did that character go? Where did that one come from? Why did she kill him? Question motivations and actions and make sure they allstack. If not, your plot will be incoherent and your characters amorphous blobs, and you will leave your reader with a stack of unanswered questions.

5. Why Are We Here? I mean here, at this desk, writing this story. Have an existential crisis on your own time.

What story are you here to tell? Work at this until you can spill it out in one sentence. Stick that on a post-it note. Use it as a guidepost to direct your steps. Because, whatever the reason, you chose to use your precious free time and spare brain-cells to set this story down on paper. Why? If you can’t answer this to your own satisfaction…maybe you should be writing a different story.

*Quotation has been transcribed into Modern Blog for clarity.

**Intentionally is another matter.

The 25 Moments You’ll Have After Finishing Your Manuscript

Crown Royal Northern Harvest

I got your stiff drink right here, hur hur hur. 

1. The Afterglow. Wow. That was…wow. Hand me a cigarette, would you? And that bottle of whiskey.

2. The Replay. Did you see how I wrapped up that nagging plot thread at the end? And that climactic scene…that was amazing. I’m amazing.

3. The Exit. Well, this was fun, but it’s time send it to beta readers. Not that they’re going to find anything to comment on, right?

4. The Send Off. Enjoy, beta readers! You’re in for a treat.

5. The Next Thing. I should start a new project.

6. The Worry. It’s been 24 hours. Why haven’t the betas gotten back to me? Didn’t they stay up all night, red-eyed and weeping, unable to put my book down? What’s wrong with them?

7. The Reassurance. They’re probably just taking their time to enjoy it. Yeah. Yeah.

8. The Temptation. I should call them.

9. The Resistance. No. Be strong. You’re not that needy.

10. The Questioning. Are you?

11. The Distraction. Come on, man. Get it together. They’re a busy person. They’re probably not spending all their time reading your book. They have to…work, or sleep, or some shit. Just write this short story until they get back to you. That’ll keep you busy.

12. The Failure. I hate this short story.

13. The Dark Turn. I bet the betas hate my book.

14. The Darker Turn. I hate my book.

15. The Peek. It can’t be as bad as I remember. I’ll just read some of it over…

16. The Reveal. Huh. Didn’t remember that dropped subplot. Or that vanishing character. Or that name switch.

17. The Hope. Maybe they won’t notice.

18. The Truth. They’ll notice.

19. The Horror. Fuck me, another plot hole? And where did that guy come from? What happened to that guy’s head? How many problems are there in this thing? How did I not notice them before? Was I fucking blind?

20. The Scramble. Maybe…maybe the betas haven’t started yet. Yeah. Sure. They’re busy people. Maybe I can fix all this before they read it and email them another version. A better version. Yeah. That’ll work. Then they never need to know how I–

21. The Notification. Was that my email alert?

22. The Return. Shit.

23. The Resignation. Well, as long as they sent it back, I might as well see how bad it is. They must have hated it. It’s got so many problems. Maybe the comments they left will make it easier to give up writing and become a wandering kung-fu master.

24. The Comments. Wow…this…this isn’t as bad as I thought. I mean, yeah, there’s issues, but…they liked it. Mostly. Except for these bits…and I didn’t like those, either, so…

25. The Rewrite. I can fix all of this! Crank up the atomic turbines and brew the coffee! I’m going back in!

Listen To This: Writing and Music Pairings

Version 2

Guess who dug a working Walkman out of their basement? Image by Steph Snow.

I listen to music. A lot. Nearly every second I’m working and most of the time when I’m not, there’s something blaring in my ears. It’s amazing I’m not deaf.

But until the day when my hearing goes and I have to steal a pair of eardrums from one of you, I’ll keep doing it. What I’m listening to depends largely on what I’m doing*. So here are my pairings. Uncork a bottle and get your tasting notes ready. We’re going in.

Zero Draft: Loud, fast, aggressive rock or pop; things with screaming. I need to absorb the energy from that stuff when I’m pounding out a zero draft like I’m digging a grave with my bare hands. Metal, thrash, punk, rock…hell, even pop, if it’s not too shrill. Anything that keeps the energy up.

Unless…I’m writing an emotional scene. Then: piano concertos or foreign language opera. Energetic but non-intrusive.

Editing: Ambient; haunted; thunderstorms. Something that gets my brain moving but doesn’t steer it. My favourite for this is either the Thunderspace app on my phone (with optional lightning flashes for that mad scientist touch) or Warren Ellis’ Spektrmodule podcast.

Unless…I hate the piece I’m editing. Then: Goth rock or soul.

Rewriting: Techno; Industrial; Hip-Hop. Steady beats, building rhythmic progressions. Makes me feel like I’m building something, too.

Unless…I’m procrastinating over a scene. Then: speed metal to get over the hump.

Blog Posts: Dirty rock; Grunge; 70s rock; Blues rock. Anything that makes you feel a little dirty, just like reading this blog.

Unless…I didn’t get enough sleep or I don’t have a post idea. Then: Random Spotify playlist, just to see what shakes loose.

Research: Instrumental; soundtracks; classical. Just the music, please. Lyrics = distractions.

Unless…I want to be distracted. For example, if I’m brainstorming and want new thoughts to spark up. Then: Anything goes. If I’m looking for new ideas, I have no idea where to find them, so I’ll look anywhere. That’s how I ended up listening to K-Pop one afternoon.

What about you lot? What’s in your headphones? What song do you wake up to? What keeps you going in the trenches? Whose eardrums can I harvest?

*I recently switched from Rdio (RIP) to Spotify, and have begun my campaign of terror against a new algorithm as it tries to pick music based on my listening habits of the last week.**

**Motorhead, Beyonce, a Japanese pianist, a three-hour thunderstorm, and the aria from Madam Butterfly.